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While ice fishing has been in full swing for several weeks, anglers heading out are encouraged to bring a friend and check the ice often as they make their way to their favorite fishing spot.
“Ice thickness is not uniform on any body of water, even in the middle of the winter. Things like melting snow and runoff can create weak spots and lakes with current or springs will have areas with slower ice growth,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Anglers should also avoid areas with things sticking through the ice like rocks, trees or docks that will conduct heat and make the ice around it less stable.”
The winter storm that left a fresh blanket of snow over most of Iowa will cover potential areas to avoid so anglers are advised to use safety techniques usually associated with new ice.
“Use a spud bar to work your way out, cut a series of test holes and don’t go out alone,” said Larscheid.
Anglers should use their judgment and trust their instincts. If the ice does not look right, don’t go out. It is also a good idea to follow others footsteps on the ice.
Avoid slushy or honey-combed and stay away from dark spots. Don’t walk into areas where the snow cover looks discolored.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends a minimum of four inches of quality ice for fishing and at least five inches for snowmobiles and ATVs.
Anglers should pack ice picks, about 50 feet of rope and should bring a throwable floatation seat cushion that they can sit on that could be used in case of a rescue.
Safety Tips on the Ice
· There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice.
· New ice is usually stronger than old ice.
· Ice fishing is a social activity, don’t go out alone. If the worst should happen, someone would be there to call for help or to rescue.
· Check ice thickness as you go out - there could be pockets of thin ice or places where ice recently formed.
· Avoid off-colored snow or ice. It is usually a sign of weakness.
· The insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process.